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Just one month after Proton unveiled its new model, Perodua, the second
national car company today brings out an all-new addition to its range – the
Kenari. Unlike the Proton Waja, however, the Kenari goes on sale from today
and if you were among those who booked earlier, you could be driving this
new Perodua home this weekend.

The Kenari is Perodua’s fourth model and fulfills the company’s aim of
offering a model in all the popular segments – sedan, 4WD, van and now
MPV. But as with its description of the Rusa as a ‘multi-utility vehicle’
(MUV), rather than a ‘van’, Perodua calls the Kenari a ‘Multi-Usage Mini-Wagon’
instead of a mini-MPV.

The positioning of this somewhat unconventionally-styled model is at the
upper end of the compact segment. While the Kancil is basically a low-priced
entry-level model, the Kenari is presented as a premium model and aimed at
buyers who are in the 30 – 40 age group. Perodua is forecasting that there
will be slightly more female buyers (55%) than male buyers but expects also
that many buyers will be people with young families.

Perodua officials make no claims of “100% indigenous design” for the Kenari
and make no secret of the fact that it is based on the Daihatsu Move. Prior
to it being revealed, there was speculation that the Kenari would be based
on the Sirion or the Gran Move (a larger model). But the Move was chosen
because it has the newest platform, having been designed to the new minicar regulations in Japan which permit slightly larger dimensions than the
original minicars (or ‘Kei-cars’, as the are referred to in Japan).

The regulations were introduced in October 1998 and just prior to that
month, Perodua had decided it would adapt the new ‘wide-body’ Move for a
new model. The project code was ‘X680′ and it was supposed to be launched
in 1999. But the severity of the economic downturn forced the company to
reschedule its launch to this month and another model which was due this
year to be pushed to next year.

While development work went on, various names were considered for the
new model. The initial one which seemed quite appropriate was a Malay
phrase but after some surveys, it was felt that a more neutral name would
be better. The next choice was the name of a fish and remained high on the
list till last December when the X680 finally got the Kenari name. For those
who are not so familiar, ‘Kenari’ is the same bird as the yellow canary.
It’s a nice neutral and cheerful name which Perodua will also use for its
export model.

There are three grades offered – the EX, GX and EZ. Both the EX and GX
have 5-speed manual transmission while the EZ comes only with 4-speed
automatic transmission. In terms of standard equipment and features, all
three versions are essentially the same. However, the EX will not be
available initially and will only be introduced in late July.

The Kenari is built on the same line as the larger Kembara although the two
models do not share the same platform. With the surging demand these
days, Perodua has been using almost all its 120,000 unit capacity so
supplying enough Kenaris is going to be tricky. If this new model is in great
demand, the factory will have to cut back on Kembara production to make
more Kenaris.

“This is something we can’t do much about but after June next year, when
the factory capacity is raised to 150,000 units, then we should see more
balanced output of all the models,” said Perodua Managing Director Datuk
Abdul Rahman Omar.

In the first week of orders being accepted, over 300 people signed up for a
new Kenari. It could be higher, noted a Perodua executive, if not for the
present controversy over the issue of commissions to dealers and the
implications to the interest rate to customers. Nevertheless, Perodua expects
to sell about 2,000 Kenaris a month over the next six months and also plans
to export 500 units to UK (the first export market for the Kenari) by year’s
end. The Kenari will make its debut there during the Birmingham Motorshow
in October.


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